The Best New Tool: The SK X-Frame Ratcheting Combination Wrench Works in The Most Cramped Quarters
Sure, we love power tools at Popular Mechanics. But there's something about a beautifully made hand tool that just grabs our attention. That's the case with SK's new X-frame ratcheting combination wrench, a tool demo at SEMA in 2014 that's just moving now into full production.
The tool has an unbelievably tiny 1.7 degree arc swing, allowing you to loosen and tighten fasteners in tricky or cramped places. But tiny arc swing doesn't translate into a delicate pawl mechanism. In fact, just the opposite is true. This tool has got guts. The ratchet mechanism is achieved with a 6-pawl design that combines Swiss watch precision with garage bay ruggedness.
Wisely, SK paired the 216-position ratchet mechanism with a unique open I-beam body that increases the wrench's cross section and load distribution without increasing its weight. SK claims the wrench will handle five times the ANSI torque specification.
Tool lovers were saddened some years ago to see SK on the brink of disappearing from the manufacturing landscape. In a last minute reprieve, it was acquired by Ideal Industries in 2010, another stout Midwest hand tool manufacturer. It was a good fit. Ideal makes awesome pliers, among other things, so it seemed well qualified to rejuvenate the fabled SK brand, which has been well regarded by knowledgeable mechanics for decades.
We've seen nothing in the intervening years to convince us otherwise.
Anybody who likes a well-made wrench should turn their attention to the X-Frame. The tools exemplify quality manufacturing with superb fit and finish. Their polished chrome plating (SK calls it "Superkrome") reminds you of the smooth glossiness of a 1950s Buick bumper, and the ratchet mechanism purrs when you turn it.
These tools are by no means the exception in the SK line. Have a look at the company's catalog and you'll find 4,000 or so American-made tools, including the X-Frame.
So what will all this mechanical glory cost you? They are expensive, but considerably less than other well-known brands. The wrenches cost from roughly $22 to $46 apiece, depending on size. SK lists the set at $300, though we found a 12-piece set of X-Frames retailing for $220 to $240 on the web.
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